Manganovel Corporation and Toshiba Corporation today announced that they will bring the universe of Japanese manga to the global market with the launch of “Manganovel,” an on-line service that allows readers not only to download and read manga in Japanese but to post and offer for sale their own translations of content. The service started beta testing in June this year, and is now officially ready to take manga characters to anime lovers around the world. The site can be accessed at: URL: https://www.manganovel.com .
“Manganovel” will serve as a distribution source for Japanese publishers, and go beyond that to create a community of readers. In a world-first for the comics industry, members will not only be able to download and read Japanese versions of manga, but, by making full use of the potential offered by Web 2.0, be free to upload and even sell their own translations of the comics. Potential readers can get advice on the quality of any individual translation offered on “Manganovel” by reading the comments of other readers on the site’s discussion boards. The whole operation will offer secure digital rights management with “MQbic” (Multi-cubic), digital copyright protection technology developed by Toshiba.
“Manganovel” will serve the Japanese market with a Japanese site for downloads, and the global market with an English site where readers can download Japanese manga and translations by “reader-translators.” This novel approach will give readers in overseas markets early access to new manga titles at a price similar to that paid by readers in Japan, while supporting a community of “reader-translators” offering access to the texts in English. Comic lovers anywhere in the world will be able to register for and use “Manganovel’s” services, and make on-line payments by credit card.
“Manganovel” is already attracting attention and support from manga publishers who recognize its potential power as a marketing tool. Shonengahosha, one of Japan’s leading publishing houses, will initially offer titles on “Manganovel,” for both download and translation.
“Manganovel’s” operating security will be guaranteed by “MQbic” (Multi-cubic), Toshiba’s proprietary digital copyright and rights management and protection technology (DRM: digital rights management). The site’s operations will be enhanced by the application of a “server thin client model” developed by Toshiba in collaboration with the Simplicity consortium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) Media Lab. In the future, this system will allow members to view the comics they purchase not only on a PC but also on a mobile phone or portable game player.
The “Manganovel” concept was developed by Toshiba in collaboration with Professor John Maeda, a world-renowned graphic designer, visual artist and computer scientist, and with researchers in the Media Lab’s Simplicity consortium, and the related application and server software was implemented by Fixstars Corporation, which also has a minority holding in “Manganovel.”
The Simplicity consortium specializes in fusing design, business models and technology. Its “server thin client model,” as used by “Manganovel,” does not require users to save content at their end; all content is managed by “Manganovel’s” distribution server. Users can access the service from any PC, and in future they will be able to read purchased comics on multiple platforms, including mobile phones and portable game players.
Manganovel will continue to work with Professor Maeda to develop a platform even more convenient than a comic; an interface combining usability, usefulness and enjoyability. Also, “Manganovel” will be used at MIT in Professor Ian Condry’s course on “Japanese Literature and Cinema,” to help students study Japanese pop culture and comics.
The “Manganovel” Concept
1. Members buy Japanese version of comics for $4 to $5.
2. “Reader-translators” translate the comic to other languages.
3. The “reader translator” e-mails the “translation” to “Manganovel” and can price it at either free or 2 percent of the original comic price.
4. Readers can purchase the original Japanese comic and the translation data.
5. If a translation is purchased, the “reader-translator” gets 50% of the sale price as a royalty.
6. Readers who purchase translations can review them on “Manganovel’s” discussion board, and use reviews to select a translation of a comic from among multiple translations. The original “reader-translator” can also use the feedback from discussions to revise the text and try to improve it.
Comics are more popular than ever, and interest in Japanese manga is soaring. International sales in 2005 (excluding Japan) stood at $245 million (approximately Yen 29 billion), a more than three-fold increase over 2001’s $75 million, and manga accounted for over 60 percent of the market, generating sales of $145 million (approximately Yen 17 billion).(a) This is despite the fact that only a few titles are released in the overseas market, where sales are undercut by delays in getting titles to market–a month’s delay is typical for paperbacks–and relatively high prices. “Manganovel” will end these problems and meet pent-up demand for an instant, low-cost service for manga. With cooperation from major comic publishers, “Manganovel” will make Japanese comics globally available and create an innovative mode of translation supported and driven by lovers of manga.